Ford’s newly updated Ranger, shown to the world press at its premiere in Bangkok just minutes ago, puts a stake in the ground for the light commercial sector.
This Ranger, already a benchmark for on-road comfort and accommodation, is a transformative car from Ford.
Loaded with the safety and high-end convenience technologies common to the passenger car market, the 2016 Ranger brings a recognition of a new reality: that these cars, the light commercial utes that were once the preserve of the trade and 4WD adventure market, have now been adopted by family and lifestyle buyers.
And these buyers expect the same high-end technologies as offered in the passenger car sector.
It is this market, as well as the traditional ‘trade buyer’ that Ford is going after with its new ‘tougher’, smarter, technology-laden Ranger.
“(Buyers) increasingly use their truck just as much for their family life as for work (and) they want uncompromising levels of quality, craftsmanship and comfort.” Brett Wheatley, Vice-President of Sales and Marketing (ASEAN region) said.
“(The new Ranger) offers an interior environment that’s more contemporary and carlike.”
The engines and power outputs remain familiar to Australian buyers - two diesels and a sole base model petrol (the latter unconfirmed for Australia when the new model is released), but there are refinements to the ride and handling, and considerable changes to the interior accommodation and technologies.
Standout safety enhancements with the refreshed Ranger include the segment-first introduction of radar-based cruise control.
This, as it does in up-spec passenger cars, can automatically accelerate and brake to match the position of traffic in front.
It's a feature that sets the 2016 Ranger apart from long-time rivals like the Toyota HiLux, the Mitsubishi Triton and the Nissan Navara. Each will soon be replaced, but, for now, this technology has not been confirmed for their successors.
Other key features in the 2016 Ranger include Driver Impairment Monitor, a system that uses a camera and sensors to detect drift.
There's also Lane Keeping Assist and Lane Keeping Aid, vibrating the steering wheel and automatically moving the car back onto course.
A reversing camera and rear parking sensors are featured, along with tyre pressure monitor, hill descent control, adaptive load control and trailer sway control.
Outside of safety tech, Ford has also specified the updated Ranger with the SYNC2 infotainment system, which brings an 8.0 inch display and intelligent voice controls.
With light commercials holding such a large slice of new car sales in Australia, the new Ranger is an important car for Ford in the Australian market, not the least because of the heavy involvement of the Broadmeadows engineering and design centre in its design and development.
The current model has shaken the king’s throne - the HiLux is under real threat for its dominance of this sector – but it's this new model that will really raise the stakes.
Let the bruising begin.